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23 February 2018

Big Issue Founder Calls for Scientific Approach to Homelessness
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23 February 2018

Big Issue Founder Calls for Scientific Approach to Homelessness

John Bird, one of the founders of the Big Issue magazine, has praised our work calling for a ‘more scientific approach’ to homelessness.

Visiting the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology for one of the school’s Big Question Days, which encourage students to look at important social and moral issues in the world, Lord Bird – who became a Life Peer and entered the House of Lords in 2015 – told students:

“You are in a brilliant place. I know Lord Baker and I love what he has done in creating these (University Technical Colleges) kind of schools and colleges.”

Talking specifically about addressing problems of poverty and homelessness, Lord Bird said: “He’s right there. We need scientists and for people to be more scientific. We also need to sell the idea of scientific analysis in making decisions in Governments and in other departments. We need some Science in education if we are failing 37 per cent of our children in school who then become 80% of the prison population who clog up our A&E departments because they are depressed because no one has ever invested in their future.”

During Thursday’s (Feb 22nd) visit, Lord Bird talked about why he and Gordon Roddick set up the Big Issue Magazine back in 1991, allowing for the first time ever, homeless people a way of making a living.

Speaking in the college’s Lecture Theatre, Lord Bird also talked about his own experiences of homelessness; being born into a London slum with parents that drunk and didn’t pay the bills and a dad who was violent.

Asked what it was that got him through the hard times and led him to his success, he replied: “I never gave up on me. It doesn’t really matter what comes your way, you really have to stick in there with yourself because if you do, you get out of it.”

After his talk, Lord Bird described what it was like to grow up in a slum in Notting Hill.

“What is so interesting is when you are in it, it feels very, very natural. We lived in a house with about eight other families. It was a house built in in the Victorian Period for posh people but the posh didn’t arrive so they stuffed it full of poor people.

“We had this large room. There was no bathroom, no toilet. You shared a toilet on the floor above with about 15 or 20 other people. It was cold, the windows rattled, there was no heating. There was a fireplace but coal was expensive. The streets were strewn with rubbish and dirt and muck and old baked bean cans and broken bits of this and that, cars and stuff like that. It was a real terrible, terrible place to be born into but I felt like it was home and I absolutely loved it and when we moved out of the slum when i was seven and moved into a Catholic Orphanage where everything was clean and you had a bed and you had underwear – I mean underwear was unbelievable – and sheets and blankets.. We didn’t have blankets, we just had old coats piled on top of us, I hated it. I hated all the regular meals, I wanted to be back in the dirty, grim, black, rat-infested, dog poo place I came from.”

Lord Bird, who now lives in Cambridgeshire, said a lot of that desire to return to where he grew up was because of the sense of community that existed within the slum.

“Everybody was in it together, it was just incredible. We were brought up by the streets so my mum would pop out, sometimes she would go to the pub or go to a shop or whatever, and the old ladies above us, below us, next to us would look after us, the men would look after us. I think that was the making of me because it was poverty but it wasn’t poverty of spirit, it was people really trying to pull together and making the most of it.

“We couldn’t quite get out of poverty though, largely because my parents were not very good at looking after money so we didn’t pay the rent so I was homeless at five, six, seven and they weren’t very good at making a pound go a long way, or ten shillings, and they used to drink and smoke and waste their money, to me it looked like wasting it. I’d rather have had a leg of beef but they’d rather have had a crate of Guinness, but that’s what poverty does to you.”

He went on to describe homelessness as ‘deeply humiliating’ and said it was important that every homeless person is given the chance to help themselves.

Lord Bird also stressed the importance of never giving up.

You have to start from where you are, wherever you are. If you are really up against things then you have to start doing very, very small things to change. I remember when I was deeply depressed on one occasion because my wife had left me with my baby, the social security was after me, everybody was after me, I had had a relationship with somebody that had gone wrong and I had really wound myself down through drink and drugs, and I remember laying in somebody’s bed – they were away for three weeks – and I thought I am going to lay here for three weeks and do nothing.

“Then one day I got up and used her toothbrush, washed, and I went out and got a job as a washer-up. It was the worst job in the kitchens in a hotel but it kind of changed. I just did little things, washed up, had a shave, cleaned myself up and went out and got myself a really poor quality job but at least I was out in the world, I wasn’t laying on that mattress.

“It’s like someone I know who suffered a bereavement said ‘what can I do?’ and I said just go and help someone else, forget about yourself, do something for somebody else, volunteer, and you’ll find that it will change your life.”

 

2 February 2018

Field Trip to Hobson’s Conduit
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2 February 2018

Field Trip to Hobson’s Conduit

Year 11s spent a morning at Hobson’s Conduit this week as part of a study on the environmental impact of the new Addenbrooke’s Railway Station.

Students are working on the Challenge project with Mott MacDonald and amongst their tasks was measuring the water flow.

The Nature Reserve and watercourse was built over four years, from 1610 to 1614, to bring fresh water into the City.

2 February 2018

Raising Political Awareness
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2 February 2018

Raising Political Awareness

Today’s visit from MP Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, marked a special anniversary in the world of politics.

Speaking on the 100th anniversary of the month and year (Feb 1918) of the introduction of the women’s right to vote, Ms Allen spoke to students about what made her go into politics; what it is like to be an MP with a constituency outside of London and what her working week looks like; her role within her Constituency as well as how she gets involved in debates and the different types of votes there are.

“We have made huge progress but I think it is not just in politics but any senior roles in industry, we are still not there and there is more to do.”

 

Ms Allen’s visit followed that of MP Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge since 2015.

During his visit to the college, Mr Zeichner urged students to stand up and make a difference – by getting involved in politics.

“There are choices and it is through politics we get things done. When you get a vote, make sure you use it and use it for the better.”

1 February 2018

Students Hold Own Brexit Ballot
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1 February 2018

Students Hold Own Brexit Ballot

The EU Referendum was repeated at CAST on Thursday 1st February when the whole of Year 10 took part in a debate on the issue of BREXIT as part of their Level 2 Certificate in Financial Education.

The result, incredibly, was very much in line with the Cambridge vote in the Referendum itself.

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Sian Foreman
Headteacher

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